In the second season of Hell Girl, Ai and her three assistants remain ready to make an offer to those who seek it. A website exists that can only be accessed at midnight. Those who visit the page are able to put in the name of the person they wish to have revenge against. If their request is accepted, Ai will appear and offer them a straw doll. If they truly wish to have revenge, they can pull the string tied around the doll and their enemy is ferried to hell instantly. In exchange, those who have their grievance answered will also spend eternity in hell after their death.
This season, the three assistants of Ai and a strange little girl named Kikuri will step forward into the spotlight. Taking an active role in each case, the three strawmen spend each episode investigating the revenge being sought and share just a bit more about their characters with viewers. While Kikuri just kind of sits there and occasionally does something that’s not entirely irritating.
Good and the Bad
For years, I have been patiently waiting for the second season of Hell Girl to be released in the US. Finally I got my chance and the wait has been worth it. Surprisingly, in the second season the story is given a much different approach. Characters who were once regulated to support roles are now being brought forward and a series that used to leave questions but no answers are now asking an endless list of ‘what if’s?’.
In the first season of Hell Girl, the series was quick to introduce a central story but here moves in the completely opposite direction by telling episodic stories through the entire set. At first glance, this could be a recipe for an empty sequel but Hell Girl manages to keep things fresh by giving the audience much more to think about.
In the first season, the question that audiences were constantly asking themselves was ‘will they or won’t they?’. In the second season, that question is replaced with ‘what if…’; what if your grievance isn’t strong enough to access the link? Do you take matters into your own hands or find someone else to do the work for you? What if you ask for the straw doll but die before you can pull the thread? By asking these questions audiences will be pulled into a brand new way of looking at Ai and the covenant that she offers.
What bridges these episodes together is the three strawmen who serve as Ai’s assistants: Hone Onna, Wanyuudou and Ren Ichimoku as becoming starring roles. As the episodes progress, new intricacies in each of these characters are brought to the surface. Taking more active roles in investigating each ‘client’, entire episodes are spent exploring what cases capture the interest of the strawmen and what their lives are like away from Ai. This ends up being a really fun experiment for the series that works in their favor almost every step of the way (episodes 9 and 10 are terrible in theory and execution). Never has the series spent so much time just listening to what these characters have to say. As it turns out when allowed some time to be genuine, these are all characters that have something to say about their lives and those who have asked for the curse.
The biggest frustration about this presentation is that despite all the time spent on these characters personalities, there is almost zero elaboration on their histories. Perhaps this is coming down the road and I just don’t see it yet. Right now, this feels like the biggest missed opportunity to create empathy before moving into the second half and Kikuri’s eventually growing role. Speaking of Kikuri…
The new addition to the cast, Kikuri’s role in the first half is questionable at best. A loli character with huge purple eyes, for the entire half her role is to occasionally get in the way and do annoying, sometimes destructive kid things. Absolutely no elaboration on why she’s there or what she might even possibly do in the future, her current role is to just exist for future story use.
What sets the second season of Hell Girl apart from so many others that get churned out is its amazing level of approachability. Beyond the first few moments of episode 1 (which look amazing by the way) and the occasional obligatory insert of the first season’s OP, there are no references to the events of the first season.
With a new twist on its story and characters, Hell Girl is making an obvious effort to be different and, if possible, better than where it left off. While it’s still a very dark horror, the growth of the story and characters in it succeed in creating not only a better series but one that everyone can pick up and enjoy. If you’ve never heard of this series before, you can pick up these episodes and enjoy them without feeling like you’ve missed anything.
Returning to compose the background music for this season are Hiromi Mizutani and Yasuharu Takanashi. Using lots of dark string themes with deeper tones, the music do well to add a heavy air that matched the darkness of the series. What is bothersome about a lot of this score to seasoned viewers will be the many themes which are recycled from the previous season. Many of the iconic themes that are forever linked with the first season, such as Ai’s theme as she travels to her latest request, are used again here which honestly bothered me at first.
On one side, there were many moments when I wished new themes would appear or the music would stand out more. On the other side of this coin, the secluded hut where Ai calls home always retains the exact same sunset. Nothing ever changes as though at this one scene time always stands still and nothing ever changes. In this perfectly still moment in time, nothing has changed or will ever change. The setting and mood will always stay the same and keeping the same soft theme that has always been associated with it retains that softness. If you’ve seen the setting before, every part is familiar. If you’ve never been there, the same soft strings which helped create that gentle feeling in the past is there to greet you anew.
While those who are already familiar with the series are going to miss the intensity and compelling nature attached to the first season, the first half of season two does a great job on its own of creating a need to see more. Leaving audiences with much more to think about regarding what lies within their own hearts and those around them, viewers will be left with their own dark moments of reflection: given the chance, would you or wouldn’t you? Despite it’s hiccups along the way, Hell Girl: Two Mirrors is another solid psychological horror fans should be watching.